REVIEWS FOR THE CARDINAL KING: MUSIC FOR HENRY BENEDICT STUART IN ROME, 1740-91
'Consort singing second to none' 'A moving disc' 'we're glad we found this one' - Elin Manahan Thomas & Andrew McGregor, BBC Radio 3 Record Review, January 2017
“Bolis’ setting of the psalm Miserere (track 10) is the longest work here and for me one of the highlights of the programme. Sung alternatim – alternate verses in Gregorian chant from a soloist and by a choral group – it’s much less elaborate than the ubiquitous Allegri setting of the same text, to which it makes a very fine alternative. … Niccolò Jommelli’s Oculi omnium is another highlight of the recording. The text in itself is not particularly intense but it receives an intense setting from Jommelli and an appropriate performance. … Little-known this music may be but the quality of what is on offer here justifies Toccata’s enterprise in making music which has ‘languished in obscurity’, to quote the booklet, much better known. These well-recorded performances fit the bill superbly and I hope to hear much more from all concerned. As usual with Toccata releases, not the least of the virtues of this recording is Peter Leech’s excellent set of notes: scholarly and informative.” –Music Web International, March 2017
Tiago Manuel da Hora
“The Cardinal King, performed by the British ensemble Cappella Fede, joined by Harmonia Sacra choir in two works and directed by Peter Leech, presents a very well chosen program with a great deal of first recordings and, most importantly, one very interesting repertoire from a historical and musical point of view. Alongside the predominant sacred music, we for the first time can hear instrumental music for violin, viola and continuous bass (here with cello and positive organ) by Carlo Tessarini. As it does not always happen in new recordings of the old repertoire, this album presents a musical corpus that truly deserves to be divulged and that fully justifies its phonographic editing. … In short, in my opinion, this is one of the best and most interesting editions that Toccata Classics has published in recent months, among the top 5 of its catalog of 2016.” –X Music, March 2017 (Link)
“What a great CD, with the bonus of a fascinating back-story! … The CD opens with the mournful music of Sebastiano Bolus’s Subvenite sancti, one of the five Assoluzzione, written for the funeral of Bishops around 1780. Bolus is the main composer featured on this recording. … Two of most substantial works are included: the alternatim setting of the Miserere and the Letanie della Madonna Santissima is the concluding track. … It is a glorious example of the Roman Classical style, with elaborately ornamented sections for a solo soprano (Elizabeth Dobbin) alternating with choral passages, the whole while cleverly incorporating the much repeated refrain of Ora pro nobis into the musical texture. … The four solo singers and four instrumentalists of Cappella Fede produce fine sounds individually and in consort. Violinist Hazel Brooks, features as the impressive soloist in Tessarini’s Allettamento Secondo (Andante) and his three movement Allettamento Terzo, written for violin and cello. In the other works, organist Matin Knizia provides continuo accompaniment, with some solo passage work in the lively Laudate pueri Dominum by Bolis. The 14-strong Harmonia Sacra choir are equally impressive in their contributions. … This is an important contribution to musical research, but also a delightful insight into the attractive music that graced the Roman court of a man who could have been a King, were it not for the complexities of religion.” –andrewbensonwilson.org, December 2016
Bertil van Boer
“Many of these works appear here for the first time, and the performance by the vocal ensemble Capella Fede (with the appearance of Harmonia Sacra consisting of voices and continuo in two of the numbers) is excellent. While the focus on the music at Henry’s court in Rome may be the reason for the disc, the music of Bolis in particular seems well composed enough for further exploration. The voices are clear and right on pitch, something that is crucial in such an exposed set of works. The tempos are generous but not too lugubrious. All in all, this is one disc that should be checked out, as it contains unusual and lovely music by composers who are all but unknown. Highly recommended.” —Fanfare Magazine, July/August 2017
REVIEW FOR LUX MEMORIAQUE
Sonograma Magazine, translated by Tiago Manuel da Hora
The English vocal ensemble Harmonia Sacra was founded in 2009. They took a step forward in their commitment to contemporary music. Their repertoire includes music by John Tavener, ArvoPärt, Eric Whitacre, James MacMillan and David Bednall. Lux Memoriaque, released by the Nimbus label, is the result of an enriching relationship established between this choir and Lawrence Whitehead. In this recording we can listen to the works of Whitehead juxtaposed with others by Robert Hugill, Jonathan Lee, David Bednall and Peter Leech, who is also the director of this vocal ensemble.
It is important to emphasize that this record is dedicated to the memory of organist and composer Christopher Manners (LRAM), who died suddenly in 2013. As a director, Peter Leech (who has Australian-British nationality) has achieved international recognition since he was awarded the First Prize of the Mariele Ventre International Competition, and as a composer he has premiered several vocal works. It is notable to mention that his Requiem was commissioned by the Collegium Singers in 2011.
A great many of the pieces in this disc are world premiere recordings. With interlaced routes, the composers in the program share various points in common. Peter Leech has assembled pieces he considers to be of religious and spiritual interest, and in addition included works of many other composers who are, in one way or another, in the same artistic orbit and worlds away from triviality and lightness.
The music flows freely without the need to show anything more than itself. The performances of Harmonia Sacra correspond to the sound specificities and requirements of the works, with abundant effective nuances. Peter Leech has managed to portray many different sound worlds (ranging from unison melodies to dissonant harmonies with gently resolved cadences), sometimes at a certain poignant moment, at other times during continuous passages. This is a delightful soul-filled recording with luminosity, whose sacred texts are set to a warm and calming music.
Author Marçal Borotau @m_borotau @sonogramaMGZN
REVIEWS FOR CHERUBIM & SERAPHIM
This disc is precisely a collection of choral works composed by Italian and Russian composers between 1765 and 1915; 150 years of spine-tingling creations of sheer uplifting beauty. The programme includes 14 short pieces that vary from the profound to the prayerful, from the thankful to the rejoiceful, but each composition has that inescapable human yearning of wanting to be entwined with the divine. Harmonia Sacra under Peter Leech present this music in performances that are skilful, stylish and hugely attractive to the ear. The air is consistently tender rather than forcefully dramatic, and the great attention to detail readily discloses all the subtleties of these quite inspiring gems. Sound and annotations are first-rate, but the 50 minutes playing time might induce some reservations. But this is only a minor glitch in what is a very fine issue that should be snapped up without hesitation.
- Gerald Fenech - Classical.net